I needed a dose of Christmas cheer. Getting it from a Hallmark channel Christmas love story seemed as good a way as any. On a random night, I switched on the channel and lucked into a well-done Christmas romance called Snow Bride.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is currently streaming on Netflix. This 13 episode season stars Krysten Ritter as the super-powered Jessica Jones. Mike Colter, David Tennant, Rachael Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Erin Moriarty, and Wil Traval all show up regularly, too.
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In no particular order, here are some things I like about Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Beware some mild spoilers.
1. Jessica Jones Forgets It’s a Comic Book
The opening credits boast a printed-on-cheap-paper quality. The credits are a nice homage to Jessica Jones’ origins. However, once the story starts rolling, it no longer looks so much like iron-on scenes from a comic book. While the noir quality of the series and the occasional framing of the shots suggest comics, overall Marvel’s Jessica Jones stands on its own as a modern thriller. In addition to the opening credits there are early references to “saving the city,” or “the big green guy,” or “the guy with the stars on his shirt” but Marvel touchstones are not an important part of what Jessica Jones is about. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) features large in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. It’s already known that Cage gets his own show, but his part in this series was not mere spin-off publicity. Cage is important to Jessica’s story.
The call-out I most enjoyed was to Dexter, not to anything in the MARVEL universe. Dexter is the former home of series creator Melissa Rosenberg. Jessica gets in the elevator at her apartment and looks up at blood spatter on the ceiling. Hello, Dexter.
2. You Sense Women’s Influence
Melissa Rosenberg is creator and executive producer and writer for the series. You can feel her and all the other women behind the scenes while you look at what’s in front of the camera. @sjmyles said it perfectly.
There are themes of rape, abortion, abuse, consent, equality. All of these issues are dealt with from a female perspective. Matters of concern to women are handled by women.
In an interview at Variety, Melissa Rosenberg was quoted saying,
She was exactly the character I wanted to write my whole career. She was a fully-formed human being, not a one-dimensional character — she was not the wife or the cop partner or whatever. She was beautifully drawn in the comics, in every way — she was just profoundly damaged and deeply flawed and very dry. I love her sense of humor.
But at her core, she’s someone who ultimately wants to do something good in the world, though that is buried under many layers of damage.
Let’s face it, a room full of only male writers would neither bring this feminist outlook to the table nor get it on the screen.
I want to mention the women directors by name: S.J. Clarkson, Uta Briesewitz, Rosemary Rodriguez.
3. Sex Exists
Most superheros appear to be celibate. Not Jessica Jones. She operates with a no apologies attitude toward sex. In that sense, Jessica Jones is more Lost Girl than Supergirl. Like the costumes, the sex scenes are not sexualized – I don’t know if that sentences makes complete sense, but it’s true. Jessica doesn’t use her sexuality to manipulate people or get what she wants. She not “a bitch” in the patriarchial sense of the word. She’s a person who sometimes wants to have sex. Imagine that, patriarchy.
The person she picks for sex is the incredible hunk, Luke Cage. She doesn’t know at first that he’s another special case like she is. What she doesn’t know when it begins will hurt him in a huge way.
Trish has sex scenes as well. The message from her scenes is the lady is in charge.
Same sex couple Jeri (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Pam (Susie Abromeit) do some touching and teasing, but no sex scenes between them are shown.
The sex scenes do not pander. They move the story forward.
4. She’s Smart
Yes, Jessica Jones has super strength. She can break any lock, toss a man across a room with one hand, or jump 50 feet straight in the air to perch between buildings. But the thing that matters about her isn’t her super power, it’s her brain. She’s brilliant as an investigator. Any bad decisions she makes are meant to serve a greater purpose.
5. The Villain is Relevant
Jessica’s nemesis is Kilgrave, played with suave and sophistication by David Tennant. His performance is absolutely brilliant. Mind control is his power. He used it on Jessica in the past with horrifying effect. Now she’s trying to gain control over him and his evil doings.
Since he controls minds, Kilgrave’s reach is everywhere. No one can be trusted because they might be doing his bidding. His villainy extends to everyone around Jessica, including Trish.
Kilgrave’s the most culturally relevant villain in a very long time.Kilgrave isn’t the only character of evil intent, but he’s the biggest and baddest in season 1.
I find Kilgrave especially relevant as a villain. We live in an age when our educational system turns out graduates with no reasoning ability and no critical thinking skills. We live in a time when corporate media can convince huge segments of the population science is wrong and greed is good. We support wars based on false assumptions. We allow a secular system of equality to be overtaken by a religious cabal of zealous fanatics. The whole country is under the crazed mind control of a few. Kilgrave is after us all and we’re marching to his drummer.
Kilgrave is charming, convincing. You like him in spite of knowing you shouldn’t. He’s the most culturally relevant villain in a very long time.
6. Her Relationships are Fraught
I like that Jessica is abrupt and socially inept and lives behind thick protective walls. She’s immensely vulnerable yet immensely strong, like many woman living in the modern world.
Jeri Hogarth, a lawyer, sends her work. Jeri is trying to divorce her wife Wendy (Robin Weigert) so she can be with her assistant Pam. The same-sex couple is treated exactly like any other; points for that.
Not so many points for the way Jessica tries to convince Wendy to sign the divorce papers. Social skills are not Jessica’s forte.
Jeri enlists Jessica’s help as often as Jessica enlists Jeri’s. Through most of the season they work on a murder done by a young woman named Hope (Erin Moriarty) while she was under Kilgrave’s control. In the personal area of her divorce, Jeri insists that Jessica find some dirt on Wendy, who wants to make a killing on the breakup.
Jessica’s relationship with her neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville) is similarly troubled. Kilgrave turns him into an addict and uses him to spy on Jessica. Jessica tries in her own less than cuddly way to save Malcolm. He becomes one of her few allies. And he clearly has the best hairdo in the world once he starts looking neat and clean.
Even with her sister/friend Trish, the person Jessica probably loves most, she is often off-putting.
7. She Makes Mistakes
Jessica is smart. I mentioned that. But she’s hampered by guilt and shame and past abuse. Those demons influence her thinking. Her battered psyche rules her emotions. She’s desperate to get rid of Kilgrave. She’s willing to do almost anything, no matter how dangerous, if she thinks it will put an end to Kilgrave’s evil.
8. The Costumes and Settings
Jessica dresses in battered jeans, a black tank top, and a jacket. She wears hoodies and tee shirts. Sometimes she dons a worse-for-wear grey scarf. There’s no spandex, no push-up bra, no cape, not much makeup. Trish (Rachael Taylor) tries to sell her on the idea of a superhero costume and she laughs at the idea.
Marvel offers us an everywoman in Jessica Jones.She looks like a normal person. She’s as troubled as a regular person. She cries about her failings and cares about the people around her. Marvel offers us an everywoman in Jessica Jones. Her wardrobe convinces.
As for the look of the series and the settings, I thought the cinematography was beautiful. (Manuel Billeter was the cinematographer.) There were a lot of scenes at night and outside with interesting lighting, especially in the night scenes. One scene in particular, when Jessica climbs to the top of a bridge and looks over the city was gorgeously done. Jessica’s ratty apartment, Trish’s luxury apartment, Jeri’s office, morgues, houses in the suburbs, bars – it was all well chosen. The lighting and the color palette worked.
9. The Music
Great music characterizes this series. Everything from the light jazz of the opening credits to the music written for each scene is mood enhancing. Sean Callery gets credit for the music.
10. The Performances
Krysten Ritter’s performance turned out to be exactly the right one.As I explored episode 1 “AKA Ladies Night,” I was not convinced that Krysten Ritter was the woman for this job. She seemed awkward. As the episode wore on, I realized she was meant to be that way. Krysten Ritter’s performance turned out to be exactly the right one. Her self-loathing, her distaste for Kilgore, her nuanced dealings with her PTSD, her rape, her drinking – they felt intensely real. Jessica’s yearning to do good and help people was utterly believable.
Carrie-Anne Moss was brittle yet unbreakable steel with her performance. Her morally compromised character was a work of art. Rachael Taylor was the perfect choice as the beautiful former child star. With absolute love for Jessica, Trish has Jessica’s back. In a story where everyone teems with secrets and lies, Rachel Taylor plays the one straight-arrow.
David Tennant, as I already mentioned, was beyond outstanding. Mike Colter, Eka Darville, Robin Weigert, Erin Moriarty, Wil Traval, Susie Abromeit – all perfect. Random cops and bodyguards and cooks and doctors and parents – wonderful. Rosario Dawson, who doesn’t show up until episode 13 on a little side trip from Daredevil – well done. Well done, to all the cast.
Has season 2 been announced yet? Because I’m ready.
What did you like about Marvel’s Jessica Jones? Did I forget to mention your favorite thing?